Robert Bly was born in western Minnesota in 1926 to parents of Norwegian stock. He enlisted in the Navy in 1944 and spent two years there.
After one year at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, he transferred to Harvard and thereby joined the famous group of writers who were undergraduates at that time, which included Donald Hall, Adrienne Rich, Kenneth Koch, John Ashbery, Harold Brodky, George Plimpton, and John Hawkes. He graduated in 1950 and spent the next few years in New York living, as they say, hand to mouth.ion.
His work Iron John: A Book About Men is an international bestseller which has been translated into many languages. He has done workshops for men with the late James Hillman and others, and workshops for men and women with Marion Woodman. He and his wife Ruth, along with the storyteller Gioia Timpanelli, frequently conduct seminars on European fairy tales. In the early 90s, with James Hillman and Michael Meade, he edited The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, an anthology of poems from the men's work.
Since then he has edited The Darkness Around Us Is Deep: Selected Poems of William Stafford, and The Soul Is Here for Its Own Joy, a collection of sacred poetry from many cultures. Bly's ooks of poetry include What Have I Ever Lost by Dying? Collected Prose Poems and Meditations on the Insatiable Soul, both published by Harper Collins. His second large prose book, The Sibling Society, published by Addison-Wesley in hardcover and Vintage in paperback, is the subject of nation-wide discussion. His collection, Morning Poems (Harper Collins), named for William Stafford’s practice of writing a poem each morning, revisits the western Minnesota farm country of Bly’s boyhood with marvelous wit and warmth.
He has also published The Maiden King: The Reunion of Masculine and Feminine (Henry Holt) in collaboration with Marion Woodman. His selected poems, Eating the Honey of Words, have been published from Harper Flamingo, as well as his translations of Ghalib, The Lightning Should Have Fallen on Ghalib (with Sunil Dutta) from Ecco Press. He has also edited the prestigious Best American Poetry 1999 (Scribner).
In 2000 he won the McKnight Foundation's Distinguished Artist Award. A book of ghazals, The Night Abraham Called to the Stars, was published by HarperCollins, 2001, and his selected translations, The Winged Energy of Delight, appeared from HarperCollins in 2004. In 2005 HarperCollins published his second book of ghazals, My Sentence Was a Thousand Years of Joy. In 2008, the Guthrie Theatre staged his translation of Ibsen's Peer Gynt. Recently, White Pine Press has published a new selection of his prose poems, Reaching Out to the World. Bly's latest collection of poems is Talking into the Ear of a Donkey.